Sports TV News
How Far Will ESPN Go to Heal NFL Relationship?
Last week, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told The Washington Post that the network had informed the NFL that it would not be showing the playing of the national anthem before games as a courtesy to the league. He said it was part of a larger effort to show the NFL just how much ESPN values their partnership.
In his mailbag column this week, The Athletic‘s Richard Deitsch was asked what that larger effort might entail. Specifically, the email wanted to know if the NFL could demand an end to any investigative reporting done on the league, its teams, or its players. Deitsch didn’t go so far as to say it would put an end to investigative reporting, but Pitaro’s comments do put the network’s reporters in an interesting situation.
I think the journalists who do investigative work would be wise to be concerned. ESPN is undoubtedly going to continue to cover the NFL daily and will break plenty of compelling stories that involve players etc … But will we see deep investigative pieces on the issues that really chafe at the NFL brass (concussions, ownership scandals, the nexus between social justice and the national anthem policy)? That’s the large question because the reality is fellow NFL media rightsholders are not doing those stories on the league. (And if you think the NFL hasn’t punished ESPN for being a reporting pain in the behind, I have a monorail to sell you in North Haverbrook — just look at ESPN’s Monday Night Football schedule prior to this year.)
Deitsch added that the network itself is in a curious spot. It makes sense that ESPN values its relationship with the NFL, but it has to value its reporters too, as that is what makes ESPN’s NFL coverage different from the coverage provided by any of the league’s other TV partners.
The reality is that what is best for ESPN’s business is to avoid covering stories that tick NFL owners off. But I’d argue ESPN’s journalism is also something that separates it from every other sports media entity in partnership with professional leagues.
The outlet that Deitsch worries would be most affected by any editorial mandates from the corporate level is Outside the Lines. The show has already lost its Monday time slot during the NFL season, and with its long time leader Bob Ley taking a 6 month sabbatical, Deitsch worries that OTL will lose some of its strength.
For its part though, ESPN has already told Deitsch that it is still committed to OTL. It is hard though to read Pitaro’s comments and not see the network taking OTL off the air the same night it is airing NFL games as a way to distance the show from the league.
Sports TV News
Dan Orlovsky: Stephen A. Smith Allows Me to Be Me on First Take
“He’s not focused on having this intense ‘I’ve got to be right moment’. He just wants to have fun talking football and arguing about sports in general.”
Dan Orlovsky has become a regular presence on ESPN whether it’s calling football games as an analyst or talking about the game on NFL Live, Get Up, or First Take and he loves every job that he gets to do.
Orlovsky was a guest on the most recent episode of GOLF’s SUBPAR with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. When he was asked what he likes doing the best out of all of the things he gets to do, he mentioned that it’s a question he gets all the time and he dove into why he loves each of the roles he has.
“I love them all to be honest with you. We get asked that question all the time by executives: What’s your end goal? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? I always say I love it all. If you get a good live game, it’s nails. There’s nothing that beats a good live game. Really in college football, if you get the right scene, right setting, and get a great game, it’s tough to beat…If you get a good college football or NFL game, those are great.
“First Take is a blast because Stephen A. called me 2 years ago and was like I want to give you Thursdays. Thursday is going to be your day. I think the thing that gave me so much joy in doing Thursdays with Stephen A. is he’s so ‘Go be yourself’. He’s not focused on having this intense ‘I’ve got to be right moment’. He just wants to have fun talking football and arguing about sports in general. I love doing First Take.
“I love doing Get Up because it kind of was where I got started and they’ve given me a lot of creative freedom. NFL Live is my favorite when it comes to I’m with people who I love. Those people are like family to me. That’s where I am my most nerd is NFL Live. I love it all.”
When Orlovsky was discussing more about working with Smith, he talked about how all Smith wants to do is talk sports and that conversations that extend into the commercial break never get personal even though some could view them as awkward.
“One of the first times I did First Take, we were in commercial break and I was sitting there talking to Stephen A. about whatever. All of a sudden when you are on set, someone yells 15 seconds till we are live. Stephen A says what’s the topic?
Live TV comes on and he goes from this casual conversation to performance. I think that’s empowering when you see him do that because that’s part of that show. He takes a ton of pride in it, but it’s not fake. It’s just who he is in that moment. He’s not overly sensitive. He’s never going to get defensive about stuff. He just literally wants to chop it up and argue and disagree and have entertaining sports conversations. It could be viewed as awkward, but it’s never personal.”
When Orlovsky first became a part of the media, he told Knost and Stoltz he learned the power of making a list and that when coming up with a Top 5, it should be something that generates conversation.
“I learned early on in this business lists are supposed to be disagreed upon. If you make a list and everyone’s like ‘I kind of agree’, it’s boring. I am aware when I make lists of trying to make something that is going to generate conversation, generate disagreement. I’m not going to make a list that I don’t think is accurate or don’t think is something I stand by. I’ve had guys reach out to me and be like ‘What the heck is this all about?’. I have had agents text me. They text me all the time saying ‘What are you doing? You are driving value’.
“I am aware I am on ESPN a ton. I try to be very conscious of that as well. I have had guys and agents reach out a bunch, but I have to do my job the best I can.”
Even though Orlovsky had a solid career as a backup in the NFL, he said that he is having more fun now because of the success that he is having.
“I am better at this than I was as a player. Once you settle into that role, it’s really cool as a backup, but you don’t have any competitive release though. You do all the work as everyone else, but you don’t get to go out on Sundays and prove that work was worth it. I love doing this now because there’s an aspect of taking immense pride in trying to find something that you can be really good at after you were really good at something…It’s another opportunity to find a way to be really good at something and have that as a daily challenge.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Sports TV News
Sean McManus: LIV Golfers Won’t Get Different Treatment During The Masters
“We’re not gonna put our heads in the sand.”
CBS Sports is preparing for coverage of its 68th consecutive year of The Masters, but the 2023 event could prove to be unlike any before it, and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus is cognizant of the situation.
After several former Masters champions departed the PGA Tour for the upstart LIV Golf, many pondered what that meant for the sport’s major championships. The Masters decided to continue to allow the golfers who are now playing exclusively with the Saudi-backed league to compete for the green jacket. McManus shared that CBS will continue the showcase the golfers as it always has.
“We’re not gonna cover up or hide anything,” McManus said, as reported by Golf Digest. “As I’ve said so often, our job is to cover the golf tournament. We’re not gonna show any different treatment for the golfers who have played on the LIV tour than we do the other golfers. And if there’s a pertinent point or something that we need to, or we feel that we should bring up in our coverage on Saturday and Sunday, or on our other coverage throughout the week, you know, we’re not gonna put our heads in the sand.
“Having said that, unless it really affects the story that’s taking place on the golf course, we’re not gonna go out of our way to cover it. I’m not sure there’s anything that we could add to the story as it already exists. We’ll cover it as, as is suitable.”
Sports TV News
NFL Owners Not Voting on Flex Scheduling For Thursday Night Football
“The owners have simply decided to wait until May to make their decision.”
Amazon will have to wait for flex scheduling. NFL owners decided to table a proposal that would allow the league to create more compelling matchups for Thursday Night Football later in the season.
That doesn’t mean flex scheduling won’t be a reality on Thursday nights this season. The owners have simply decided to wait until May to make their decision.
Earlier this week, Peter King of NBC Sports reported that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is pushing the idea. Coaches have been outspoken about how much they dislike it, complaining about managing injuries and the competitive disadvantage that would come with finding out you suddenly have a shorter week of preparation than expected. According to King, Goodell is trying to make Amazon happy after the first season of Thursday Night Football failed to deliver projected audience numbers for Prime Video.
League owners did take a step they hope will lead to fewer games between losing teams. Last season, teams could only be scheduled once for a Thursday night game. The owners decided to bump that limit up to twice per season.
Goodell defended the proposal against accusations that the league is prioritizing revenue over player safety.
“We always look at the data with respect to injuries,” he told the media gathered at the league meetings. “That is what drove our decisions throughout the first 12 or so years of Thursday Night Football and how it’s evolved. I think the data was very clear: it doesn’t show a higher injury rate. But we recognize shorter weeks. We went through this with COVID, too.”
When the idea of flex scheduling is revisited in May, it will require the support of 24 team owners in order to become a reality.